Liberty director attacks ‘spiteful’ Trade Union Bill

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty

The director of a civil rights organisation has accused the government of making a “spiteful and ideological attack” through its Trade Union Bill and proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act.

Speaking to delegates at the TUC conference in Brighton, Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty said the government’s activities would “have one-nation Tories like Disraeli and Churchill spinning in their graves”.

The Trade Union Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons this week by 33 votes.

It would see a minimum 50 per cent turnout imposed in strike ballots and would see public sector strikes requiring the support of at least 40 per cent of those who can vote.

Under the existing rules, strikes can be called if the majority of those participating in a ballot vote in favour.

Notice periods for strikes would be doubled under the proposed laws – from seven to 14 days. This would allow employers to take on agency workers to replace striking staff.

Fines of up to £20,000 would be imposed on unions if picketers failed to wear a special armband.

Ms Chakrabarti said: “Forcing dissenters to wear armbands? Forcing them to register with the police? Has this government no history? No imagination?

“These attempts to divide, rule and dominate ordinary people in different sectors of the economy and different parts of the world are neither democratic nor Conservative.

“It should look after its workforce instead of making pathetic attempts to demonise it in the eyes of the rest of the people.”

She added that women would suffer the most from the government’s “onslaught” on freedom, saying: “Trades unions fought for women’s votes, pay and better workplace conditions. Human rights laws protect them from rape and trafficking, deportation and discrimination.

“Let’s be clear that women would be amongst the greatest victims of this government’s onslaught on freedom and we must not let it succeed.”

Unions have warned of both legal and industrial action against the bill and are planning a day of coordinated action.

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